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Welcome to Britsburgh: Festival of Britain in Pittsburgh kicks off this week

By Bob Batz Jr. / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Lots of Pittsburgh events get a mayoral proclamation. But not many also get a nod from Buckingham Palace, which recently sent a letter of support to the organizers of this week s Britsburgh[1]. This first-ever festival of Britain in Pittsburgh celebrates this region s ties to Britain with more than 20 events running Tuesday through Sept. 14. Organizers couldn t be more pleased with the interest, and not just from people who work with Queen Elizabeth II, who next week overtakes Queen Victoria to become Britain s longest-reigning monarch.

It s a far greater response than we ever expected, says Roger O. Cranville. I don t think the region has ever really celebrated its British heritage, and this is an opportunity so to do. Mr. Cranville, who still has the British accent he brought from Cambridge in 1991, is a longtime leader of the event s sponsor, British-American Connections Pittsburgh, the former British-American Business Council. It s hoping to make new connections by offering Pittsburghers chances to eat British food, drink British beer and whiskey, listen to British music and more.

He points out that the ties between the Brits and Pittsburgh go way back to 1758, when the British army won what we know as the Point from the French and built what they named Fort Pitt in honor of British Secretary of State William Pitt.

We re black and gold because of William Pitt s coat of arms, a motif that has been adapted to Britsburgh s logo that is a black-and-gold Union Jack (available for purchase as a flag and on tea shirts ). BACP has partnered with other groups and businesses on events, a full schedule of which can be found at But some of the fun might find you, as many bars and restaurants are serving Fuller s ales, and tea specials are being offered by local tea and coffee shops, including an event called Sconehenge at the Anchor & Anvil Coffee House in Ben Avon. Gryphon s Tea in Lawrenceville and Margaret s Fine Imports in Squirrel Hill are selling a Britsburgh Blend. Meanwhile, WQED-FM will be featuring English classical and choral music. Even baseball goes Brit when Britsburgh at the Ballpark takes over a section of PNC Park for Thursday s Pirates-Brewers game.

There are events to suit everyone, says BACP chairman (and Brit) Robert Charlesworth, who works here for EY (Ernst & Young), which is Britsburgh s presenting sponsor. He says the letter from London offering the Queen s Good wishes for a successful and enjoyable event was the icing on the cake! … It’s going to be fun to see Pittsburghers enjoying this cultural extravaganza.

What Mayor Bill Peduto s office has dubbed Britsburgh Week kicks off 6 p.m. Tuesday with a Proper British Dinner at Gaynor s School of Cooking on the South Side. The $75 menu includes Stilton Soup; Steak, Guinness and Cheese Pie; Jamie Oliver s Brussels; and Eton Mess. Other highlights:


3 to 5 p.m.: Britsburgh Tea with Celebrity Authors (including the Post-Gazette s Len Barcousky and illustrator Ilene Winn-Lederer) at Mansions on Fifth in Shadyside ($30).

5 to 8:30 p.m.: Ceilidh at the Chapel Celtic music, singing, dancing and reading plus food trucks at Heinz Chapel in Oakland.

8 p.m.: Willy Russell s play Educating Rita at the Charity Randall Theatre in Oakland (runs through Sept. 19; $13 to $48).


4 to 6 p.m.: British Cheese & Tea Happy Hour at McGinnis Sisters in Monroeville, which has put in its British phone booth a life-size cutout of Queen Elizabeth II for The Queen & Me Selfie Contest.

6:30 to 8 p.m.: Ghosts in British Art and Literature talk at The Frick Art and Historical Center in Point Breeze ($10 or $8 for members).

7 to 7:45 p.m.: British Invasion Spin class at Steel Revolution in Shadyside ($25).

8 p.m.: British Comedy Spot at Arcade Comedy Theater, Downtown ($15).


4 to 6 p.m.: British Cheese and Tea Happy Hour at McGinnis Sisters in Adams.

5:30 to 8 p.m.: British Beer College (BBC) at the Allegheny HYP Club, Downtown ($50). Also 5:30 to 8 p.m.: Whisky Tasting at Mansions on Fifth in Shadyside ($50).


11 a.m. to 3 p.m.: The British are Coming samplings at McGinnis Sisters in Adams and Monroeville.

1 to 3 p.m.: Screening of the new PBS series Indian Summers at WQED in Oakland.

1 p.m.: Meat Pie Tasting at Bushy Run Battlefield in Fayette County ($10).

2 to 5 p.m.: Pittsburgh Tweed Bike Ride (with stops for readings) from Highland Park to Point State Park to Piper s Pub in South Side ($5 donation).

6:30 to 10 p.m.: Commonwealth of Nations Dinner at Mansions on Fifth in Shadyside (the premier event featuring a Britsburgh cocktail and foods from around the Commonwealth, $150).

Next Sunday

1 to 3 p.m.: Britsburgh High Tea at McGinnis Sisters in Monroeville ($25).

3 to 9 p.m.: A Very British Day Out at Highmark Stadium at Station Square, featuring soccer, rugby and cricket as well the Honeyriders band and other live music, a Queen Elizabeth II look-alike contest, plus British food and drink from Piper s Pub and Samuel Smith s Brewery. The judging for the look-alike contest is from 4 to 5 p.m., with the prize awards at 6 p.m., so practice your royal wave and dust off your handbags.

4:30 p.m.: Evensong sung by the internationally acclaimed Choir of Trinity College Cambridge at St. Andrew s Episcopal Church in Highland Park.


7:30 p.m.: Trinity College Choir Concert at Calvary Episcopal Church in Shadyside ($25 to $40; free for students).

Britsburgh also is connecting to the Highland Games at Edinboro University Thursday through next Sunday.

For all the details and to register for events, visit[2].

Bob Batz Jr.: [email protected], 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr.


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